Why You Should Properly Address Wedding Invitations

The way you address your wedding invitations is crucial not only for etiquette’s sake (you don’t want to offend your new great aunt before you’re even a part of the family, do you?), but for logistical reasons as well. You’re sending a message, quite literally, about who is invited to your wedding. If you address your wedding invitations inaccurately, your guests might get the wrong idea about who exactly is expected to show up on the big day—and there’s absolutely nothing more embarrassing for everyone than someone feeling unwelcome at the party you planned so carefully.

Don’t envision your cousin’s twin toddlers racing around your black-tie evening reception? Not sure what to write on your divorced, almost-mother-in-law’s envelope? We’ll guide you through every addressing scenario possible to ensure your wedding invitations make a favorable first impression.

General Rules for Addressing Wedding Invitations

  • If both names don’t fit on one line, indent the second line.
  • If you’re having a casual wedding, such as a backyard barbecue or brunch in the park, you might be able to get away with addressing your envelopes less formally, such as leaving off titles or just using first names. But otherwise, err on the side of formality: people expect a bit more pomp and circumstance surrounding weddings, and older or conservative guests will take note if you are too informal.

How To Address Wedding Invitations Without An Inner Envelope

The most formal of invitations have both an outer envelope, which contains the mailing address, postage, and return address, and an inner envelope. The inner envelope is printed with only the recipients’ names, and contains all the pieces of the invitation suite: the invitation, RSVP card, RSVP envelope, and any additional enclosures such as a reception card, a map with directions, or invitations to additional weekend activities. When two envelopes are involved, the outer envelope is addressed more formally while the inner envelope is slightly more casual and frequently incorporates first names.

If you choose to send wedding invitations without an inner envelope, which is more common these days, simply focus on properly addressing the outer envelope. Below, we provide guidelines for how to address invitations with a single envelope vs. an inner and outer envelope for your reference.

How To Address Wedding Invitations To A Family

For One Envelope

  • When sending wedding invitations to a family, first decide whether you want to be specific about whom in the family is invited. If you don’t want to call out specific family members, simply address the envelope to the entire family:

    • The Simpson Family
  • If you do want to specify which family members are invited, write the names of each family member in list form. Begin with the parent or parents’ names, and list invited children in order of age below. Female children under the age of 18 should be addressed as Miss:

    • The Simpson Family Mr. and Mrs. Homer Simpson
      Mr. Bart Simpson
      Miss Lisa Simpson

For Two Envelopes

  • If the whole family is invited, use the family name or only the names of the parents on the outer envelope:

    • The Simpson Family
      —or—
      Mr. & Mrs. Homer Simpson
  • Then list the first names of all invited family members on the inner envelope:

    • Mr. and Mrs. Simpson
      Bart, Lisa, and Maggie
      —or—
      Homer, Marge, Bart, Miss Lisa, and Miss Maggie

How To Address Wedding Invitations To A Married Couple

For One Envelope

  • If a married couple has the same last name, you can list them together just using the husband’s first and last name:

    • Mr. and Mrs. Robert Belcher
  • Or you can use BOTH the husband’s and the wife’s first and last names, if you’d prefer to address both partners equally:

    • Mr. Robert Belcher and Mrs. Linda Belcher
      —or—
      Mr. Robert and Mrs. Linda Belcher
  • If a married couple has different last names, you can list either the husband’s or the wife’s name first based on your preference, whomever your closest with, or the alphabet. “Mrs.” is traditionally used to indicate the couple’s married status:

    • Mrs. Leslie Knope and Mr. Ben Wyatt
  • If one partner has a hyphenated name, list the hyphenated name last. Either “Ms.” or “Mrs.” can be used:

    • Mr. Andy Dwyer and Ms. April Ludgate-Dwyer
  • If one partner is a doctor, list the doctor first regardless of gender. You can choose to spell out “Doctor” rather than hyphenate it to “Dr.” if you would like to be more formal. Note that for academic doctors, you should always use the abbreviated “Dr.” rather than spell it out. If the doctor is a woman and she has taken her husband’s last name (or uses it socially), reflect that:

    • Doctor Michaela Quinn and Mr. Byron Sully
      —or—
      Doctor Rainbow and Mr. Andre Johnson, Sr.
      —or—
      Doctor and Mrs. Perry Cox
      —or—
      Doctor Perry and Mrs. Jordan Cox
  • If both partners are doctors with the same last name, you can address their invite to the plural, non-abbreviated “Doctors” to be more formal. Traditionally the woman’s name comes first:

    • Doctors Monica and Alan Quartermaine
      —or—
      Drs. Monica and Alan Quartermaine
  • If both partners are doctors with different last names, traditionally the woman’s name comes first, or you could list their names in alphabetical order:

    • Dr. Meredith Grey and Dr. Derek Shepherd
  • If one partner is a judge, list the judge’s name first using the term “The Honorable,” and then use “Judge” for the inner envelope:

    • The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Mr. Martin David Ginsburg
  • If one partner has a distinguished title, such members of the clergy, rabbis, or military personnel, the distinguished title comes first regardless of gender:

    • Rabbi and Mrs. Richard Glass
      —or—
      Rabbi Richard and Mrs. Rosina Glass
      —or—
      The Honorable Senator Elizabeth Ann Warren and Mr. Bruce Mann
  • If both partners have distinguished titles, follow the same format as for medical doctors listed above regarding same or different last names. The higher-ranking title should come first, and if they are the same rank, traditionally the woman is listed first:

    • Colonel Peter Jefferies and Reverend Margaret Jeffries
      —or—
      Lieutenants Amy and Jake Peralta
      —or—
      Captain Benjamin Pierce and Major Margaret Houlihan, US Army

For Two Envelopes

For outer envelopes, address them using the choices above for each married-couple scenario. For inner envelopes, you can be less formal though one of two options: titles + last names, or first names only (but only if you are very close with the couple). Here are examples of inner envelope addressing etiquette for married couples:

  • For a couple with the same last name:

    • Mr. and Mrs. Belcher
      —or—
      Robert and Linda
  • For a couple with different last names:

    • Mrs. Knope and Mr. Wyatt
      —or—
      Leslie and Ben
  • For a couple with a hyphenated last name:

    • Mr. Dwyer and Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer
      —or—
      Andy and April
  • For a couple with one doctor:

    • Dr. Quinn and Mr. Sully
  • For a couple with two doctors, same last name:

    • (The) Doctors Quatermaine
  • For a couple with two doctors, different last names:

    • Dr. Grey and Dr. Shepherd
  • For a couple with a judge:

    • Judge Ginsburg and Mr. Ginsburg
  • For a couple with one distinguished title:

    • Rabbi and Mrs. Glass

      —or—
      Senator Warren and Mr. Mann
  • For a couple with two distinguished titles, same last name:

    • The Lieutenants Peralta
      —or—
      Colonel and Reverend Jefferies
  • For a couple with two distinguished titles, different last names:

    • Captain Pierce and Major Houlihan

How To Address Wedding Invitations To An Unmarried Couple

For One Envelope

  • If a couple is not married but living together, you have two options. You can either list their names alphabetically by last name on separate lines:

    • Mr. Ross Geller
      Ms. Rachel Green
  • Or you can list both names on the same line, leading with whichever person you’re closest with. If you’re equally close with both, go alphabetical again:

    • Ms. Rachel Green and Mr. Ross Geller
  • If a couple is not married and do not live together, send separate invitations.

For Two Envelopes

  • Follow the above guidelines for the outer envelope. For the inner envelope, as with above, use courtesy titles + last names or only first names if you are close with the couple.
    • Ms. Green and Mr. Geller
      —or—
      Rachel and Ross

How To Address Wedding Invitations To A Same-Sex Couple

For One Envelope

  • The same etiquette applies for same-sex couples as for any other couple, married or unmarried. If they’re married or live together, definitely list both names on the same line. If one partner has a hyphenated last name, list the hyphenated name last:

    • Ms. Susan Bunch and Ms. Carol Willik-Bunch
  • For a same-sex couple with different last names, you can list names either alphabetically or according to whichever guest you’re closest with:

    • Mr. Mitchell Pritchett and Mr. Cameron Tucker

For Two Envelopes

  • Follow the above guidelines for the outer envelope. For the inner envelope, as with above, use courtesy titles + last names or only first names if you are close with the couple:
    • Mr. Pritchett and Mr. Tucker
      —or—
      Mitchell and Cameron

How To Address Wedding Invitations To An Individual

For One Envelope

  • If the guest is a single female, use “Ms.” unless she is younger than 18—in this case, “Miss” spelled out is more acceptable:

    • Ms. Elizabeth Lemon
      —or—
      Miss Donna-Jo Tanner
  • If the guest is a single male, use “Mr.” unless he is younger than 18—then no title is necessary

    • Mr. George Constanza
  • If the guest is a widow, it’s best to ask someone close to her if she prefers to still be addressed using her husband’s name, or if she prefers her married name. Some widows might also prefer to use “Ms.,” so be sure to inquire.

    • Mrs. George Devereaux
      —or—
      Mrs. Blanche Deveraux
  • Similar options exist if the guest is a divorced female: you can address her envelope using “Ms.” or “Mrs.” and either her ex-husband’s last name (if she still uses it) or her maiden name, depending on her preference.

    • Mrs./Ms. Cookie Lyon
      —or—
      Mrs/Ms. Cookie Holloway
  • If the guest is a judge, use the term “The Honorable” before his or her full name:

    • The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor
  • If the guest is a priest, use the term “Father” before his full name:

    • Father Damien Karras

For Two Envelopes

The same etiquette rules apply here as with couples when it comes to inner vs. outer envelopes. Outer envelopes follow the above suggestions. Inner envelopes either drop first names or just use first names—but only if you are very close with the individual. Here are examples of inner envelope addressing etiquette for individuals:

  • For a single female:

    • Ms. Lemon
      —or—
      Elizabeth
  • For a single female under 18:

    • Miss Chase
  • For a single male:

    • Mr. Costanza
      —or—
      George
  • For a widow:

    • Mrs. Devereaux
      —or—
      Blanche
  • For a divorced female:

    • Mrs./Ms. Lyon
      —or—
      Mrs./Ms. Holloway
  • For a single judge:

    • Judge Sotomayor
  • For a priest:

    • Father Karras

How To Address Wedding Invitations With A Guest

For One Envelope

  • For guests to whom you’ve allowed a plus-one, send only one invitation—to the person you’re truly inviting—to that person’s address. If you know the name of the guest, include his or her name on the envelope as you would for an unmarried couple:

    • Ms. Jessica Spano
      Mr. Albert Clifford Slater
  • If you do not know the name of your friend’s guest, simply write “and guest” after your friend’s name. You do not capitalize either “and” or “guest:”

    • Mr. Zachary Morris and guest

For Two Envelopes

  • Outer envelopes follow the above rules, while inner envelopes drop the first names or, when you are very close with the guests, use first names exclusively:
    • Ms. Spano
      Mr. Slater
      —or—
      Jessie and A.C.
      —or—
      Mr. Morris and guest